On Riflemen

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This report was published in a British newspaper in 1887.

Concerning the now somewhat hackneyed subject of “pot-hunting,” we note that the New York Forest and Stream fully recognises the fact that amongst our Volunteers the “pot hunting” element in nowise prevails. It says – “A glance over a Wimbledon report of 1887 notes the old-time names of Fenton, Rigby, Halford, Milner, and many others who may be found mentioned as leading marksmen far back one or two decades ago. These long-range experts find a perennial source of enjoyment in the rivalry and keen competition of the rifle field. They do not think they have exhausted all the pleasure a good rifle can bring when a single season’s shooting is over. Each opening year brings a new zest for the sport, and each closing season only brings a determination to be ready, prompt, and early for the following year of pleasurable duty. Again and again they meet, and, undismayed by defeat, they press on convinced that victory must come to the one who works long and faithfully.” Our contemporary continues – “The difference between the long-range men at Creedmoor and Wimbledon is clear, sharp, and nationally characteristic. The American marksmen shoot through their meteoric career and drop from sight. The British marksmen shoot on, and are finding always something new and fresh in the game, and when finally they drop out of the active front line it is to become advisers and coaches to the rising company of young men who have learned to respect the ‘old uns’ for the long and honourable record they have earned for themselves. In the one country fine marksmanship of this type languishes and dies. In the other a challenge shield* flung open for competition over twenty years ago is still fought for with the true, vigorous sportsman’s spirit. Creedmoor exists, Wimbledon flourishes, and solely because of the different sort of support given them.”

Leeds Mercury – Thursday, 22 September 1887

* The ‘challenge shield’ referred to is probably the Elcho Shield which was competed for by teams of eight representing England, Scotland and Ireland. Shooting was at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.

The following notes give some context to the times and wider issues that were affecting American riflemen and the NRA at that time.

In the early 1880s the NRA of America suffered severe blows to its activities. The Army decided not to send further teams to matches sponsored by the NRA. Additionally, the newly elected governor of New York, Alonzo B. Cornell, made stringent cuts in National Guard funding particularly focusing on rifle practice. Without State income to the NRA for the use of Creedmoor their future was in jeopardy.

A competition with military rifles between the Volunteers of Great Britain and the National Guard of America was held at Creedmoor in 1882, with a return match at Wimbledon in 1883. The match series did not continue.

With the lack of an international match to revive public interest, the Long Island Railroad facing bankruptcy and sponsors withdrawing support, the NRA was fighting for survival. In 1890 Creedmoor was deeded back to the state of New York although the NRA match program was permitted to continue at the ranges. When in 1892 the new Inspector General of Rifle Practice, Capt. B.M. Whitlock, gave free use of Creedmoor to state troops a further source of income was removed from the NRA.

The NRA now placed its records in storage and moved its matches to the new ranges at Sea Girt, New Jersey. In effect, the NRA became dormant until 1900 and the New Jersey State Rifle Association fulfilled its role.